October 31, 2020

The Best Line of BS I Ever Heard During My Time in Public Accounting

The best line that I ever heard about my career success during my time in public accounting was this: “Rachel, think long term. The more hours you work compared to your peers now, the more experienced you will be.”

I heard this brilliant piece of advice as a young and naïve tax associate fresh out of school from one of my managers. Seriously. Now that I am older and at least a little bit wiser, I am calling bullshit. This pits the staff against each other in terms of who had the most hours, a sick and competitive game. It ingrained in the staff a culture of the more you work, the more successful you will be. And this culture, of course, is what the company wanted because it resulted in each full-time employee working more hours. But the problem with the whole “more hours, more experience” BS is that it is categorically untrue.

According to a study by John Pencavel of Stanford University, research results found that employee output falls dramatically after a 50-hour workweek, and falls so much after 55 hours that there is actually no point in working anymore. Let that sink in: NO POINT IN WORKING ANYMORE. You aren’t gaining any more experience when you work to the point of exhaustion for weeks at a time. So print out this study, take it to your manager, and say that there is no point to working this weekend. I’m (kind of) kidding.

The main problem with this already terrible advice nowadays is those pesky millennials don’t want to work at least 10 – 12 years all day and night for a partner spot. This has led to increasing difficulty in recruiting staff at the senior and manager level. According to a recent article titled “The Ongoing Crisis in Recruiting” on Accounting Today, an Institute of Management Accountants survey found that, “two-thirds of polled senior finance professionals cited recruiting Millennials as a ‘challenge.'”

This “challenge” is actually a “paradigm shift” as referenced in a recent article on CPA Trendlines by Hitendra Patil. Patil shows that the first two categories in the hierarchy of needs of staff at accounting firms is actually “work-life balance” as well as “learning opportunities and early mentoring.”


Is anyone surprised? As millennials continue to saturate the job market and technology sweeps the industry with changes, we can expect to see more of a cultural shift and as a result, a shift away from the “more hours, more experience” mentality.

Would more work-like balance, value based projects, and learning and mentoring be so bad? The firm of the future will embrace these changes and the old school firms will not. Let’s see who survives.

I invite anyone to top my favorite BS line that you have heard in public accounting in the comments

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